#SHRM19 Keynote: Brene Brown, Leading with Vulnerability


Monday is underway, and that means one thing to me: Brené Brown. She's a PhD, she's a Social Worker, she's a researcher, an author, a speaker on vulnerability, shame, and courage. And her TED talk "The Power of Vulnerability" is one of the five most watched in the world, with over 35 million views. The woman is a titan. Period.

Today, Brené talked to #SHRM19's nearly 20,000 attendees on her new book "Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts." Brené and her team asked professionals What is the future of leadership? The answers were the same: "We need brave leaders who will re-humanize work." Then comes the real question: What actually makes a brave leader? Brené's research tell us that it's actually quite simple. Brave leaders are never quiet about the hard things. They choose courage over comfort.

The job of a leader, Brené reminds us, is not to have all the answers but to ask the right questions. Excavating and disposing of the obstacles that make our employees' jobs harder. And then creating the space for them to have ideas and make decisions. Psychological safety, trust, and vulnerability lead to high-performing teams. You can either spend a reasonable amount of time dealing with your employees' fears and feelings, or you can spend an unreasonable amount of time dealing with their poor performance and behavior. You can't do both.

We all recognize that trust is a difficult and time-consuming thing to build. Brené shared a very interesting data point from her research that the no.1 catalyst for building trust in a relationship is by asking for help. Leaders who are humble enough and vulnerable enough to engage their employees in the decision making process have a much higher chance of building a trusting work team than a boss who tries to keep all the important stuff to themselves.

Vulnerability is the literal prerequisite for every important thing in our lives. It's showing up in uncertainty, risk, and personal exposure. But make not mistake, vulnerability is hard. We will fail. We will face disappointment. Do it anyway. Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's moving forward in spite of fear. Acknowledging it, but not letting it own you. That's courage.

Where many companies miss the mark, is in the way they identify and utilize their value system. Most, if not all, companies have stated values. It's sort of like the cover charge to open a business. But the very best ones take it a step further and actually operationalize their values. They weave their value system into everything they do day-in and day-out. Their values become more than words on the page, they become the culture of an organization.

In closing, Brené left us with this simple but accurate thought: "People are the hardest part of work. Yes, it's true. But we're all we have. We need to be brave, meet people where they are, and create a climate of inclusivity." 

Originally published on Working Title HR blog.



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